Tea Tree Oil

Program Overview


Tea Tree Oil is extracted from Melaleuca alternifolia grown in plantations and distilled via steam injection. Most plantations are located in the coastal region of northern NSW and the Atherton Tablelands of Queensland. 

Tea tree is tolerant of coastal acid sulphate soils and can be grown on inland cropping country. RIRDC’s investment in the tea tree breeding program has resulted in the near doubling of plantation yield. RIRDC investment has also delivered additional efficiencies in harvesting, distillation, storage and marketable oil benefits. Tea Tree Oil has a range of uses, can be found in cosmetics, personal health care and animal care products and is being recognised by consumers and manufacturers for its effectiveness.

The key challenge for the Australian Tea Tree Oil industry is to continue to improve profitability and increase demand. Reducing costs of production is important to maintaining Australia’s competitive advantage against the rest of the world. As price increases and demand continue to grow, new plantings in China have potential to impact on commercial competitiveness of Australian-grown oil.

The current objectives for Tea Tree Oil which will assist the industry to meet its challenges include:

1. Market access through regulatory response, product efficacy and safety research and its communication

2. Production systems that lower cost and increase productivity, including the tea tree breeding program

3. Proof of concept innovation uses for tea tree oil

4. Communication and industry capacity building

There is no statutory levy on tea tree oil. Funding is provided by RIRDC core funds and industry voluntary contributions. Growers and product manufacturers have made voluntary financial contributions to research, development and extension (RD&E) on a project by project basis for many years.

For the period 2015 to 2018, Tea Tree Oil will explore ways to transition to an independently run program of research. To 2018, Tea Tree Oil research proposals that align with industry-specific RD&E funding priorities and the objectives outlined in the New and Emerging Plant Industries Three-Year RD&E Plan (2015–2018) will be considered for funding by RIRDC.

R&D Plan

The New and Emerging Plant Industries Three-Year RD&E Plan (2015–2018) outlines the research, development and extension (RD&E) objectives for new, emerging and other core funded plant industries from January 2015 until June 2018. The Plan includes Tea Tree Oil.

Key contacts and links

RIRDC Program Manager

Dr Duncan Farquhar
Ph: 02 6923 69112
Email: Duncan.Farquhar@rirdc.gov.au

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RIRDC Projects and Results

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Current projects

All of RIRDC's current tea tree oil research projects appear here. Click on a project name for more information about that project.

Completed projects

All tea tree oil research projects completed by RIRDC appear here. Click on a project name for more information about that project.

Completed projects
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